A couple of weeks ago, I was lamenting the end of the ice fishing season and talked about properly putting way the ice fishing specific gear. I have been taking advantage of open water, as have many of you; for about a month now, but I know that most anglers are just starting to think open water fishing. To make the most out of you time on the water, there are certain things one should do to ensure a trouble free day on the water. We only get so many chances in our hectic day to day, so optimizing that time is critical.
If you are a boat owner, then you have either experienced some of these issues, or have seen it firsthand. Saving embarrassment and wasted time (yours and the guys stacked up behind you at the ramp) let’s look at some issues that can end a day before it even begins.
Boats that sit all winter almost always need the air pressure in the tires adjusted. So starting here, let’s get the tires up to required pressure and while we are at it, grease the bearings in the hubs. Then, hook up the boat and check the wiring. A little grease on the ball lock and inspection of the breakaway cable is next. Lastly, check the winch strap and safety chain. Straps dry rot over time, or get nicked and cut. If it needs replacing, consider a steel cable option.
Moving to the boat, it is time to check all the wiring at the battery and put the battery (or batteries) on the charger. Check your bilge pumps for clogging and that they pump water. Put a little water in the bilge and visually make sure the pump( and not just the motor) is working. Check all the storage compartments for moisture, open them up and let them air out. Are your first aid kits expired? How about the fire-extinguisher? What condition are your PFD’s in and do you have the required number aboard for your passengers? There are a lot of things to think about before you get to back the boat down the ramp and a methodic check and required services are critical when you are going to be on a lake that may only be 40-45 degrees on the surface and deserted.
How about the tackle? If you put everything away correctly last fall, it should be ready to go. Let’s start with your line. Does it come off the reel in coils? Tie a knot and test the breaking strength at the knot as well as just in the line. If it breaks easier at the knot, it’s old and needs to be changed. Line is cheap and your only connection between you and that fish. If in doubt change it.
Do the drags on the reel work smoothly or jerky and stiff? Does the bail open easily and snap closed with a turn of the handle? If not, take them apart and clean them. If you like to fish light lines, check all the guides on your rods for rough spots or nicks that may damage and break your line. Run a Q-tip around inside the guides, any fraying of the cotton indicates a trouble spot. Finally, get out the tackle boxes and examine and organize all the lures, weights, hooks, plastics etc. Replace or sharpen hooks, check any pre-tied leaders and rigs and clean up any rust or goop with WD-40 or similar.
Taking a day to follow these precautions and do pre-season maintenance will eliminate those “gotcha” moments and maximize your enjoyment and success. Don’t forget to take a kid fishing and I will see you on the water!
(Feature photo via missoulianangler.com)